Giving Thanks (or, how to express your appreciation to others)

Nov 27, 2014

It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S., and for me traditionally, that always meant coming together with family, sharing a ridiculously large meal made with care and love, and playing our favorite card games with lots of laughter. Of course they haven’t all been without their challenges. And more times than not, I wondered if we stopped to actually give thanks, show appreciation!

Now that I live in the Netherlands, I’m too far away to enjoy this holiday with my family. That comes with a fair amount of sadness each year. This year, I wish to contribute in a way that might help you not only give thanks, but also connect to family members with whom you find yourself sharing the day (willingly or not).

Thank you image

Did someone ever say “thank you” and you were left wondering what it was about? How about receiving a compliment – for me, they can be really tricky to hear and truly take in. Why is that? As much as I don’t love to admit it, I believe it’s because I sometimes question the motivation behind the words. Is it to please me? Boost my confidence? What I would really rather know is . . .

What did I do to make his life more beautiful? How did I contribute? How did my action actually fulfill something important for her?

So, when expressing appreciation to someone, adding your personal authenticity is the key. Try following these steps:

  1. Forget what you think the other would like to hear (no “pleasing” – this is often detectable because it comes across as hollow)
  2. Identify the moments or moments that you recall feeling appreciation – what happened in these moments, factually? What did the other person say or do?
  3. Get in touch with what was really going on inside you – what feelings did you experience? (e.g. happy, light, inspired, grateful, relieved).
  4. Consider the deeper place in you that this person touched (e.g. harmony, connection, fun, support, safety – these aren’t feelings, but rather things that are really important for you).

You can put it all together like this: Describe how something specific the other did or said (might be ongoing), how you experienced it (your feelings) and why it touched/meant something to you (your met needs).

A template fill-in sentence could look something like this: “When we/you do/did X, I feel/felt so X (and X), because it really met my need(s) for X (and X).”

It might sound clunky if you try it using that exact template. Here are two of my genuine examples (note that I don’t use the word, “need”):

To my mother and aunt: All those years, when you spent hours cooking in the kitchen for our Thanksgiving meals, I felt so content and satisfied because (more importantly than the delicious foods) the love and care you put into each meal really nourished and cared for my soul. I have such wonderful memories and am very grateful that our family could come together and celebrate in such a loving way together. You contributed immensely to all of that. Now that we don’t come together as a whole family, I wish for you that your souls are nourished and cared for in all the ways that suit you.

To my father and brother: I miss our family time together, raving about how wonderful the food tastes, and most of all our post-dinner card playing. I loved those moments so much, because of the connection I experienced mostly in the shared laughter. I believe you both put in quite some effort to contribute to that connection, and I appreciate that most of all.

Happy giving thanks to your loved ones!

Cara Crisler
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